The pleasure and power in being present

What ‘nice things’ are you missing?

How easy it is to miss the pleasant experiences in your day? Easier than you might expect… but a little mindfulness can help.

Last week got to I test the power of slowing down and noticing the good stuff as part of an 8 week mindfulness course I’m taking.

For one week, our task was to keep a pleasant events diary.

Each day, we had to actively become aware of when we were experiencing some kind of nice going-on, and, instead of shrugging it off or rushing through it, we had to really slow down and notice the sensations, sounds, thoughts, feelings we were experiencing – and soak it all up for a few moments.  We then had to record it later, in a diary. 

The idea wasn’t to seek out big bang moments – we were encouraged to think about the small stuff – the smell and first sip of morning coffee (how much would you miss it if it were gone?!), the sun through the autumn leaves, the buzz of cycling downhill, a beautiful sky.

Taking in the good

What is fascinating is that by really tuning into pleasant moments, they get rooted in our emotional memory –  and become part of who we are. According to psychologist Rick Hanson, positive experiences need to be held in our awareness for 5 – 20 seconds for them to register in our emotional memory. This is in contrast to negative experiences, which are registered immediately (annoying but necessary for survival!). 

This means it’s really important to give positive experiences more air time to help your brain register them. You can do this by paying attention to the good things in your world (sunsets, nice songs, a cup of coffee, a hug from a friend), and keeping your attention there for a bit longer, lingering on all the sensations.

Rick Hanson calls it ‘taking in the good’. I call it tonic for the soul. Ultimately it’s an antidote to our natural tendency to rush through our day and scan our environment for what is going wrong. And that can only be a good thing. 

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